If you’ve been injured while you’re working in Virginia, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In those benefits, you’re essentially entitled to two things. You’re entitled to wage loss and you’re entitled to medical benefits.
What Does This Exactly Mean?
You’re entitled to a lifetime award of medical benefits, which will cover all of your medical expenses 100%. You should not be responsible for one penny of any of your medical treatment that was caused while you were injured at work. The other thing that you’re entitled to is what we call indemnity benefits or wage loss benefits. The wage loss benefits are meant to replace the lost wages that you’ve had because of your injury. If you are completely unable to work, we call that temporary total disability. For a temporary period of time, you are totally disabled and you cannot work. If that’s the situation, then you’re entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to your injury.
How to Figure Out Your Average Weekly Wage
In order to figure out what your average weekly wage is, we look at your last 52 weeks before the injury, add up everything that you’ve earned, and that includes overtime, bonus, everything, and we divide that number by 52. You’re only entitled to two-thirds of it because you’re not taxed on any workers’ compensation benefits. If you think about it, about 30% of your check that you get every single month goes to taxes, either federal or state, you’re not paying that as a result of the worker’s compensation, so it only allows two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
Going Back to Work With Light Duty, but Less Pay
If you are able to go back to work in a light-duty capacity but you’re making less money than you were making before, then you’re entitled to the difference between two-thirds of the difference between what you’re making now and what your average weekly wage was before the accident. We call that temporary partial disability. For a short period of time, you are partially disabled, which means that you can’t do certain things anymore. For example, if you dig ditches for a living and you can’t lift more than five pounds, you’re not going to be able to do that. But your employer may say, “But you can do paperwork in the office,” and they may give you a desk job for a short period of time, but they may also pay you less because of that. If they pay you less then you’re entitled to two-thirds of the difference between what you’re making now and what you were making before.
Permanent Partial Disability
If you have a permanent impairment of a body part. For example, if you lose 50% loss of use of your right arm, you can no longer use this 50% of this arm. You can still use it, but there are certain things that you cannot do and your doctor says that it’s a 50% impairment. The Virginia code has a list of all your body parts, as bad as this sounds, the Virginia code has a list of all your body parts and it awards a certain number of weeks for every single body part. For your upper extremity, which would be from your shoulder down to your fingertips, if you lose 50% loss of use of that, then, for example, you’d be entitled to 200 weeks times 50%, so that’s 100 weeks. If you made $700 a week and you’re entitled to 50% of 200 weeks, now you’re entitled to $70,000 for permanent partial disability payments. Now, that could be paid in one of two ways. It could be paid over the course of time, every week, or you could settle with some lump sum agreement with your employer. It could go either way.
Permanent Total Disability
The last thing that you would be entitled to in a workers’ compensation case is what we call permanent total disability, and it’s exactly the way it sounds. It’s a permanent condition and you are totally unable to work. Things of that nature would be like a traumatic brain injury that significantly affects your ability to obtain any job. If you have a traumatic brain injury and you cannot work and your experts and your doctors say that you are completely unable to work, then you’re entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for the rest of your life. There is no limitation on how long that is. Compared to temporary total disability and temporary partial disability, those are capped at 500 weeks. But if it’s permanent total disability, then you’re entitled to that for your entire life.
Another example of when that would be true is if you lose two body parts. For example, just to make things easy, if you lost 100% of both of your arms and you’re completely unable to use all of your arms, or either arm, or if you lost an arm and a leg, or if you lost so much of your arm and so much of your leg, and when I say lose, I mean if you lose the use of those things or if you lose them, then you would be entitled to permanent total disability for the rest of your life. Those cases are very rare when you see permanent total disability cases. That is a list of everything that you would be entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Act in Virginia.